Electronic commerce, more popularly called as E-commerce or eCommerce, is a business model that enables a firm or individual to conduct business over an electronic network such as the internet, sell products or services and accept payment for transactions. Individual or business involved in e-commerce, b2b (business to business) or b2c (business to customers), whether buyers or sellers rely on internet-based technology in order to accomplish their transactions. It is now a pre-requisite for any business to have online presence and have digital store front to offer their services and products to the customers spread all across the globe. E-commerce enables businesses to communicate and transact anytime and anyplace all over the world.
Magento ecommerce is the best example of fully-integrated e-commerce platform featuring flexible product display options, multi-stores, marketplaces and multi-sites functionality, product categorization and shopper filtering, multiple transaction options, advanced user accounts and loyalty programs, mobile templates, configurable discount and promotion rules and more.
Ecommerce is an expansive topic in itself and to present all the data into cohesive and logical flow, we have divided this article into three main parts:
Setup of Ecommerce Website or E-Store – Development & Design
Online Marketing of Ecommerce Websites – SEO, PPC & More
Sales, Operations and Customer Services
Each of these points encompass a lot of points to consider and finalize in order to get an efficient and working Ecommerce store for you to do business from. Let us elaborate on the points in a concise manner.
Setup of Ecommerce Website or E-Store Development & Design:
When setting up you Ecommerce store there are many points for you to consider from the point of view of both as an owner and a customer. There are lots of feature rich e-commerce platforms available in both Open Source and Commercial E-commerce solutions available in the market.
- State your requirements Make a list of options and features available at your competitor website. Match your list with the features offered on all the products that are available in the market. Make sure that your service provider can help you with all the needed support for your ecommerce site. Your ecommerce website must be set up with the customer in focus and provide a good shopping experience. Your Website should be designed to not only be visually appealing but it should have clear navigation that makes online shopping experience easy. To be successful as an online shopping store, you need to make sure that you provide your customers fresh offers and services.
- A responsive website design from the start would allow your customers to browse your site seamlessly with any kind of device, like a mobile phone or tablet. Mobile Ecommerce growth is faster than any other ecommerce avenue in current market scenario. With rapid increase in connectivity options, M-commerce technology is evolving and innovations are being developed to improve convenience, efficiency, and cost effectiveness. Leading online ecommerce sites such as eBay and Amazon.com are adding M-commerce to their services to leverage this fast growing segment. Both Android and Apple iOS are already market leader in delivering content and services over mobile phone using them with the iTunes and Google Play type apps. Google, Groupon, Craigslist, Ebay are some of the most visited websites by smartphone users.
- As your business grows and your needs change, your website platform should be able to grow with you. Scalability and upgradability of your e commerce platform would ensure that your online business remains relevant and grow as needed over the time. A major issue with ecommerce start-ups is that once initial support for launching is done, the management of the e-store at the back end is handed over to owners and the complex operations leave the staff and operators helpless. Ask about the after sales support and the training programs that your developer is offering. Support and training are two important aspects that you must have clear understanding on. Choose a right service provider for your ecommerce setup, ask about their credentials, prior work experience on projects like yours. What other services they provide and any value added service they can offer to your project.
Online Marketing of Ecommerce Websites – SEO, PPC & More:
Ecommerce website’s primary goal is to get more & more customers and to do that your site must be search friendly. If you site is not high in search engine rankings, you will not get visitors, that means loss of business.
Search Engine Rankings : Today most of the visitor traffic comes from search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. So you must have an effective strategy to engage in marketing practices to get your website listed on popular search engines. There are two major ways for getting traffic from a search engine:
a) Organic Search Rankings: These are the web page listings that most closely match the user’s search query based on relevance. Organinc search rankings are often called as “natural” search results. Ranking high in the organic search results is what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is all about. Unless you have big marketing budget, organic ranking is the best solution for your ecommerce site but you will not get the desired traffic flow to you site with this method immediately.
b) Paid Rankings: Paid Rankings are basically paying money for high placement on a search engine result page – the site owners have to pay to have their web pages displayed for certain keywords, so these listings show up when someone runs a search query containing those keywords. PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns are examples of the paid search ranking where the vendor pay on the basis of visitor clicks on the paid link. Paid Search can be used to get the traffic to your site till your organic search catch up with your targets.
A mix of paid and organic search rankings is the best way for any new ecommerce trying to gain the customer base in the marketplace. Ecommerce industry is highly competitive and it’s getting harder and harder to gain high search engine rankings so it might not be bad idea to leverage the expertise of profession in the initial phases of your setup. Hiring an ecommerce consultant to help you get started with design, development, marketing and promotional aspects of your products /services can give you the necessary boost and allow you to hit the ground running.
Incentive or Savings Based Promotions – Offer discounts and coupon codes to bring more visitors to your site. This will increase sales as well as get you in touch with paying customers. Loyalty programs and discount coupons encourage users to buy products they may otherwise have not been interested.
Email marketing is simply marketing a commercial message directly to a group of people using an email. Email marketing can be done to either sold lists or current customer database. It can be done through either of the ways:
a) Sending email messages with the purpose of enhancing the relationship of a merchant with its current or previous customers, to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business.
b) Sending email messages with the purpose of acquiring new customers or convincing current customers to purchase something immediately.
c) Adding advertisements to email messages sent by other companies to their customers.
Social Media Marketing – Social media marketing usually means the efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it with their social networks. Social networking sites allows companies to directly interact with individual customers and a lot information about what prospective clients are looking for in terms of products and services. This personal interaction can instill a feeling of loyalty into followers and potential customers.
Leveraging social media channels to put the word out for your products and services, you are likely to tap into a great source of traffic. Social media and news outlets are a very good way of creating a buzz about a product or any marketing campaign you are starting for your site.
Your effective presence on social media channels such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Stumble Upon, Tagged, Yahoo Answers, Meetup, YouTube and other sites are very important to engage with prospective customers and get viral publicity.
Post Sales, Operations and Customer Services Fulfillment & Quality Control:
Fulfillment: Online customers have a lot of options now-a-days. so after sales services and support will go a long way in gaining customer loyalty. Small distribution companies can be engaged to offer customers free or faster shipping.
It is critical you be ready to pack and ship orders promptly, the industry standards are onsite delivery within 2-3 days or order. To meet these expectations, you’ll need to setup efficient operation with your local parcel shippers, it is advisable to have it in place before you launch your online ecommerce website. Shipping costs can be substantial, especially overnight or two-day air shipping so have a clear shipping policy for your customers.
Quality Control: Quality control is another area to focus on once you have sold a product to customer it need to be of the standard that customer expects. Any deviance on the product quality can not only lead to loss of that customer but your credibility as seller online which in long term can be catastrophic for any e commerce operation